“No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.” - Luke 5:36
How well do you handle change?
A middle-aged man went to the doctor’s office for his annual check-up, and the doctor came into the room with a concerned look on his face. “Sir, you’re in really bad shape. Your blood pressure is way too high, your cholesterol is off the charts, and you’re clearly stressed out about your finances. You won’t survive another month unless your wife helps you make some major changes. I want you to go home and tell your wife that she needs to start making you fresh, healthy meals at least twice a day. She needs to do more work around the house to lighten your load. And she needs to stick to a budget, so you’re not so stressed about finances.”
The man replied, “Doctor, would you please call her and tell her?” The doctor said, “Sure. No problem!” About 45 minutes later the man got home, walked through the door and saw his wife crying at the kitchen table. He said, “Honey, what’s wrong? Did the doctor call you?” “Yes,” she sobbed. “He told me you’re going to die in a month.”
That woman did NOT like to change. Neither did the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. That was one of their biggest problems with Jesus. And in chapter 5 of the Book of Luke, they started voicing their complaints.
First, the Pharisees didn’t like the fact that Jesus and his followers went to a big banquet thrown for Jesus by Levi, who had been a tax collector, and Levi’s friends—more tax collectors and other people the Pharisees viewed as the scum of the earth. Second, they REALLY didn’t like the fact that they were dining during a time the Pharisees held as a time of fasting. Put into modern lingo, their complaint might sound like this: “Jesus, why are your followers chowing down while the rest of us are fasting?” (v. 33).
In response to their complaint, Jesus shared three illustrations from everyday life to help explain why his disciples didn’t fast and why he didn’t follow all of the Pharisees’ legalistic, man-made traditions. First, he compared his presence with the disciples to a wedding feast: “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast” (vs. 34-35). Then, in his next two examples, he talked about what the Pharisees were fighting against the hardest: change.
Jesus said in verse 36, “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.” New cotton shirts shrink, right? But once they’ve been washed a few times, they don’t shrink anymore. So if you get a hole in your favorite t-shirt, and you need to patch that hole, you would never buy a brand new $20 t-shirt and cut a hole in it to provide a patch for your old shirt. You’d end up with a new shirt that’s destroyed. And once you put your old shirt in the washing machine, the patch would shrink and make the rest of your old shirt look terrible.
So, what is Jesus’ point? Jesus and the Pharisees probably agreed that Judaism wasn’t perfect. But the Pharisees thought where it had holes, it could be patched up with lots and lots and lots of extra rules. Jesus said, “No!” Jesus’ illustration of the patch job makes it clear that he didn’t come to earth to put a patch on Judaism. He came to offer something radically new.
Next, Jesus drove his point home with the illustration of wine and wineskins. In those days, they would use animal skins to store grape juice and wine. Well, in order for grape juice to become wine, it has to ferment. And during the fermentation process, the juice gives off a gas and expands. New skins have a nice elasticity that allows them to expand during the fermentation process without breaking. But old skins become dry and stiff and lose their elasticity. The same was true of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Over time they had become dry and stiff and had lost their elasticity. They didn’t respond well to change.
Here’s what Jesus was saying to the Pharisees: “You religious leaders are comfortable in your tired old religion. You want me to lock arms with you and just put a few small patches onto Judaism to make it a little better, but that’s not going to happen. The new life of the Spirit can’t be sown onto old Judaism, and it can’t be poured into old Judaism. I am giving you something fresh and new and life-changing. What I am offering you is a brand new life of forgiveness, healing and joy in the Lord.”
Jesus isn’t into putting a patch on your tired, stale religion or your old, ineffective priorities. Jesus doesn’t do makeovers. He does new construction. Out with the old. In with the new. And praise God for that!
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for church Sundays at 10 a.m.